Whether you’re a newly diagnosed diabetic or a normie looking to learn about the more hazardous aspects of diabetes, you need to read and absorb this.
This is a personal insight into my life as a diabetic that I hope will serve as a warning to help diabetics and normies alike.
Warning: Some images below are quite graphic and gross, and you might not want to see them if you’re eating, or at all in fact.
Bit of Background
About 2 years I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I didn’t take it seriously at first. I’d lost a crap tonne of weight, so hey, this “problem” was working for me. Okay, I had some minor neuropathy in my toes – that’s where consistently high blood sugar levels damages the nerve endings.
More info on that can be found here:
I’m told it won’t ever get better, but I can prevent it from getting worse through managing a healthy diet and good exercise.
My first word of warning – if your feet, toes, fingers or hands tingle, or feel numb more often than not, and for no reason, go and see your doctor. Immediately. It might be nothing, but what have you got to lose?
My local surgery gave me a blood testing kit so I can monitor my sugar levels.
The new toy fun didn’t last long. I’d check my sugar several times a day. I could see what impact certain foods had on my body, and learned how to manage my intake. Over time I used the kit less and less and only recently have I begun using it again.
I was also given lots of advice about how to manage the condition – better diet, exercise, not smoking.
I quit smoking in April 2016 with no regrets.
This yoyo’s a lot. For months I’d eat balanced nutritious meals, keep my sugar levels low, and then I’ll have a shocking few weeks eating garbage.
I’ve blamed this on working late, being too tired to cook when I got home, so microwave slop was easy to cook and scoff whilst slumped in front of the TV.
I leave crisps and chocolate alone, mostly, except when I can’t. Then I chew half a guilty Cadbury Wispa on the way home and lob the other half out the window.
I started out all hot and heavy – the gym was my pal, 3 times a week of mixed cardio and weights. I felt the difference too. I had muscles. Actual visible muscles.
Again, new toy syndrome wore off and I eventually stopped going. I consoled myself with the fact I walked 3 to 5 miles a day at work, surely that’s enough?
Maybe for some. For me? No. It’s not enough.
As already mentioned, the effects of diabetes can be found through loss of sensation in fingers and toes. That’s how I was diagnosed. I thought I had pins & needles from sleeping in a funny position, but I knew something was wrong when that persisted for a couple of months.
I’ve been told many times “check your feet” and “look after your feet” by the doctor, nurses, and lately by 2 podiatrists, more doctors and even more nurses.
There’s a damn good reason for this too.
Losing sensation in your feet means you’re less able to notice something wrong that may lead to more serious health problems if left unchecked.
For example – if a normie feels a tiny piece of grit or sand in your sock they’ll feel uncomfortable and pick it out. Problem solved.
A diabetic with a degree of neuropathy may not feel that grit, either by a degree of discomfort or maybe not at all. The grit can rub and cause a blister or cut, which if left unchecked, can become infected.
That can lead to various medical issues, the worst of which are nasty things like amputation of limbs. Extreme but a real possibility.
The serious nature is in part caused by the fact that diabetics tend to heal slower than normies.
A few years ago, before I was diagnosed, I had what I thought was a common cold, a simple bug that others at work had caught. It turned into the flu. Real flu. That became a chest infection which scared the shit out of me.
Read about it here: My Zombie Christmas.
I was told it lasted longer than it would a normie because my diabetic immune system wasn’t kicking the bug as fast.
I’ve sort of looked at my feet more since the numbness started. I give them a once over each night, and keep my toenails trimmed.
At my place of work, it’s company policy to wear steel toe-capped footwear. I’ve worn the same boots (Timberland) for over 2 years. About a month ago they had reached the unwearable stage – soles very worn and they looked unsightly.
They’re considerably more expensive than company shoes, of which I’d tried a number of their styles – boots, trainer style, etc, and they all hurt my feet.
That’s fine. I have no problem paying for my own footwear because they are better for my feet, my health and ultimately my job.
Being a bit dim, I hadn’t planned ahead and bought replacement boots. So I again tried a pair of company trainer style safety shoes. They were uncomfortable – hard soles and lacked support in key areas such as ankle and arches, and the steel cap hurt my toes.
I persisted in the hope they’d break in.
And besides, good quality footwear shouldn’t need breaking in, not to the point where it hurts or damages your feet in the process.
I have a very expensive pair of hiking boots that I wore prior to and during my Kilimanjaro trek, and not once did they hurt my feet. Indeed, it felt like I was walking on a cloud from the very start.
First Warning Sign.
Friday 24th March I was sat on the bed taking off my socks. I noticed a large blister on the side of my left foot, near my big toe that had burst and sort of ripped.
I can’t say for certain, but I’m sure it wasn’t there a few days before. It looked kinda gross. What worried me was that I hadn’t realised it was there.
There had been no pain or even mild discomfort. I stared at it. “How long has that been there?” I thought. “What’s caused that?”
I took a photo. It’s not pretty.
I prodded it, as you do. It oozed. It was surprisingly painful to the touch.
After squeezing more juice out I stuck a couple of Band-Aids on and kept an eye on it over the weekend, being mindful of socks, shoes and not doing much walking.
27th March. That morning it was looking angry and painful. I dug out a pair of my own safety shoes, not ones I’d used much as they’re not very comfy. They’d do for the time being until I could get replacement boots.
In the evening I went to the doctors as the pain had worsened around the blister and I was worried about it.
The doctor prodded and poked. Said to rest it and see the diabetic nurse in the morning to get it checked over and dressed properly.
28th March. The diabetic nurse didn’t look happy. She cleaned and redressed the blister. She said not to walk on it. We discussed my diet, if I was checking my sugar levels, what my work activities were like and then made an appointment for me to see the podiatrist, just to get it looked over.
I was prescribed antibiotics as a precaution.
I called work immediately and apologised that I wouldn’t be able to drive in or do my duties.
30th March. The podiatrist was equally unhappy with the state of my foot. She told me to never wear those safety shoes again and yes, invest in a good pair of boots like those I’d worn for 2 years. She told me to rest my foot, do as little walking as possible and gave me spare dressings just in case.
Walking was proving very painful and I was very shocked at how fast this had all gone quite bad.
I updated work. I had Friday booked as a holiday so fingers crossed I’d be okay for Monday if I rested my foot enough.
3rd April. Walking hurt like hell. I was worried an infection had got in and every step was like fire shooting up my leg. My foot hurt to the touch, all over, like it had been bruised. I saw the doctor again. And the nurse.
I was then signed off work for 7 days with a Fitness for Work note. I was pretty pissed off. It’s one thing to wish for time away from work, and enjoy some holiday time, but I suddenly loathed being rooted down, unable to walk about.
I was already missing the freedom of movement of being able to drive and do my job. I had to sit at home, elevate my foot and rest. In other words, be bored.
I updated work. Apologised again.
I had the dressing changed. I took another photo because it was looking very angry.
This is a little more gross, though not so wet looking.
For a moment I thought it was actually getting better. I had to wait the week and see. Surely by the following Monday, it would have healed and I’d be back at work, right? Sure, maybe with a slight limp here and there, but I’d be golden.
I booked a doctor appointment for Monday. Fingers crossed I’d be driving to work right after.
Sunday 9th April. The first proper day of summer. Very pleasant and warm. The family go off to a car boot sale. In the sun.
I’m home. Sat. Foot up. Bored. Bored. Bored. And feeling a tiny bit sorry for myself.
My foot hurt. A lot. It hurt to walk and touch. And if anyone got too close I’d be shouting and hopping away to avoid a sudden agonising bump.
At times it feels a bit…wet.
The dressing showed signs of seepage.
Oh dear Lord. How much grosser and more painful can this get?
All this from a blister?
10th April. I see the nurse who pulls a face I don’t like when she takes off the dressing. I could see her point though. I took a picture.
This one is quite nasty.
It had filled with a mix of liquid, weepy puss and blood. It looked like it was rotting away under the skin. Although it hurt like hell, I was fascinated by it. I didn’t like anyone touching it, even just to dab away the ooze.
Bear in mind that I have some sensation loss around the toes, so it already feels a little disconcerting when someone fiddled with my feet, and that wet bloody thing…believe me it was complete agony having the nurse tend to it.
Grit my teeth, grip the arms of the chair, cold sweat type stuff.
The doctor came in. Looked at it. Looked at me. Looked unhappy. That’s not what you want to see at all. I was referred immediately to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, to see a foot specialist.
There was concern that infection had set in and that could lead to all sorts of nasty shit if not sorted out sharpish.
I call work and explain the situation – things have gone bad and I’d have to go hospital for further urgent treatment. I’d get a doctor’s note to cover any further time off, just not right that second as I had more worrying and pressing matters to attend to.
At this point I was hobbling one or two steps, then stopping for a rest, then another few steps, and so on. Nasty shooting pain throbbing from foot to leg with every tiny movement.
The podiatrist was amazing. I cannot fault the guy. Polite, charming, well spoken, explained everything at every step the way and stopped to answer every question.
He said he’d need to use a scalpel and forceps to assess the blister. Hearing him use that word I had to suppress a burst of hysterical laughter.
Warning: The gross photos are coming up. Stop here if you’re an easy puker. Continue on if, like me, you’re morbidly fascinated by disturbing stuff.
I had to get some photos because there are people out there who won’t believe this kind of shit can come from a simple blister caused by wearing crap shoes.
A blister? Seriously?
I’d had my share of blisters. They puff up, fill with stuff, then pop, ooze, get a bit itchy and heal up in a day or two. No big deal.
This wasn’t a blister. Evil had attached itself to my body.
Foot Doc said he was going to peel back what he called my flap or “roof” of the blister. Both terms were gross.
I leaned forward to get a good look.
And took a photo.
That’s a blister. Apparently.
He sliced the yellow dead skin off, with pride I should add. Turning his head this way and that to admire his handiwork. Any why not? When you’re that skilled with a blade you should indeed take pride in your ability to carve up the flesh.
That didn’t actually hurt. I was expecting jolts of pain, so I was relieved and watched the mini operation in silent fascination.
Then he dabbed it with a swap.
Sweet holy mother fucking Jesus!
Yeah. That hurt. It was again time to grip the bed and break out the cold sweat.
Foot Doc explained there was white stuff on the now open wound. He’d changed the terminology there. He called it staph. Short for staphylococcal infection.
More on that can be found here:
I took another photo after he’d sliced me up.
I consider this to be the grossest one of the lot, which is why I saved it for last.
My Zombie Bite.
That’s a blister. Apparently. A fucking blister!
It looks like a peckish zombie with a foot fetish has taken a chunk out of me.
Even as I’m writing this I’ve had to scroll the page as far as I can to avoid seeing it as I type.
The staph is the white stuff you can see on the red stuff. The lovely Foot Doc tried to lever a slither off with his forceps, but I wasn’t having any of it.
I’m okay with some pain and can confidently endure a fair amount, but I drew the line at that point. Uh-uh. Not happening.
Foot Doc wrapped it all up. Gave me a special shoe to wear to ease the pressure around the wound. I have an appointment to see him in a week.
He gave me the direct number to the unit and a few things to watch out for – bloating, aching, pains moving up the foot, ankle, leg, and if it gets red, leaks, oozes or smells bad then to call them and come straight to the hospital.
Home & Miserable.
I called work and explained my ordeal. My offer to text some photos of the grossness was politely refused.
Today I have new dose of antibiotics and I’ll have another Fitness for Work note this afternoon to cover me for the next 7 days.
I’m feeling quite miserable. I can’t drive or walk anywhere and the pain never stops even when I’m resting and pumped with painkillers.
It could be worse. There are far less fortunate people in the world. And this minor issue reminds me of how grateful I am for what I do have instead of what I’m losing out on.
In 12 months I’ll be walking The Great Wall of China. Woohoo! I aim to be fit and healthy and walking again very soon. I’m happy to have something amazing to aim for.
I’ve been planning a new low carb diet and a training regime to improve cardio and muscles. The Samsung Health app on my phone is proving pretty decent and is helping me track food, water, steps and all that stuff.
I’ve added the Samsung Gear Fit2 to my Amazon wish list. Previously I’d considered such wearable tech as a bit pointless, but I now know it can play an important part in my life.
I want to put this “thing” behind me and get on with improving my health, diet and enjoying being at work. I do indeed miss it.
Like many illnesses, diabetes is invisible, for the most part. Just because someone looks okay to you, it doesn’t mean they are. For a diabetic, something like a blister can turn very nasty in just over a week.
Many people would prefer to keep such a problem private, and though boundaries should be respected, we should be mindful of those who would benefit from kind words, support and empathy.
I hope that should even the most unsympathetic of people read this post, they may better understand the level and pain, anxiety, stress issues with diabetes can cause someone.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re diabetic or not, just remember that your feet are very important. Treat them with care.